Berkley Hart

San Diego is a lovely place. Palm trees, beautiful Spanish architecture, Balboa Park, the Pacific Ocean, friendly people, breakfast burritos bursting with machaca--all these serve to recommend San Diego to travelers or people looking for a new place to call home. Note, however, that many people would be hard-pressed to name a successful, big-time musician who has emerged from this sweet SoCal city. (Bonus points if you knew Jewel made her start in Pacific Beach.) But that doesn't mean great things aren't happening in the bars, bookstores and coffee shops of this sleepy-but-sprawling town. San Diego happens to house a small but hugely talented folk community (including former Jewel collaborator Steve Poltz), and Berkley Hart has garnered the adoration of the fiercely loyal folk-music fans back home.

Berkley Hart is Jeff Berkley, an acclaimed songwriter and percussionist, and Calman Hart, a critically acclaimed solo artist with bluegrass allegiances. Together the duo, which has been together since 1999, specializes in folksy Americana that is well-suited to a variety of settings--quiet song circles at the Kerrville Folk Festival, loud electric gigs in bars, home concerts performed in locals' living rooms. Their first record, Wreck 'n Sow, released in 2000, was an acoustic affair that evoked a rootsy, Woody Guthrie feel. Their electrified sophomore release, Something to Fall Back On, followed two years later and featured a full band; what Berkley and Hart lack in grammar skills, they make up for in folk-rock sensibility. The men's collective keen eye for the stories that happen in the expansive spaces we variously call home shines through in the songwriting, which is a rare gift indeed.

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Melanie Haupt

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